With 28 million fans and a value upwards of $900m, eSports are definitely on the rise and there has never been a better time to try your hand in the market.
So, where do you begin?
Teams To Watch
Name: Evil Geniuses
Game(s): Predominantly Dota 2, but also have representation in StarCraft 2 and Streetfighter
Why are they worth watching: Founded as Counter Strike in 1999, EG has gone from strength to strength to absolutely dominate the eSports scene as not only as one of the best-known teams, but as an established and bankable brand. Specialising in games that require ‘twitch’ gameplay as well as long-term tactical thinking, EG continues to move from strength to strength.
Star Player: Without a doubt, Saahil “UNiVeRsE’ Arora is a world class ‘offlane’ player in the game – a position that is famed for high-risk, challenging gameplay that can swing a match. Saahil recently left and quickly returned to EG, so don’t be surprised if this in-demand young player moves again soon, making him a potent but potentially volatile prospect for long-term backing.
Team: OpTic Gaming
Game(s): Call of Duty, Counter Strike: GO
Reason Why: Specialising in close-quarter shooters, OpTic has been around since the genesis of eSports in 2006, and the recent rise of capture cards and YouTube replays allowed the group to balloon in popularity. Originally starting off as an arms-length sniper team, the group diversified to pull in other all-rounder younger players while the so-called ‘Old Men’ cycled out to careers on Twitch, livestreaming and commentary.
Star Player: Currently, Ian “Crimsix” Porter leads the pack by holding the lofty title of pro-player in Halo & COD – earning him the very eSports title of ‘winningest player’. However, a recent slump in form has highlighted that he may be approaching an end to his dominance, with the 24-year-old player threatening to start ‘aging out’ at the demanding career’s average age of 27.
But while it’s easy to back an established player, there are others that are well worth your time that have yet to cement themselves .
Up And Coming Players
Player: Jacob McDowell (signed to NRG eSports)
Game: Rocket League
Why: Despite being relatively new on the scene, McDowell has gone on to distinguish himself in tournament play with an amazing ability to control the ball, a keen understanding of space and an ability to flawlessly execute set pieces with pinpoint precision.
Placing six consecutive firsts and earning POTW from the Rocket League championship series, McDowell’s contributions to the team are inarguable. Most recently participating in a championship game which saw him involved in sixteen of the twenty goals that the team scored and ten saves in the same match, highlighting that he is a flexible player that has a great eye for the game and a deft touch…all whilst driving around in an in-game car with a foam cowboy hat on top.
Player: Pavel Beltukov
Why: Hearthstone is an online card game that asks players to build a deck of fantasy characters that you can use to fight your way to success against opponents in every possible situation. Easy to get into but highly demanding at top levels, Hearthstone asks players to manage risk, their opponent’s ability to influence their actions, and health all on a strict timer.
Beltukov has risen to the top in a continuously changing game that has seen constant tweaks and updates to maintain its balance while adding content. With less demand placed on ‘twitch’ reactions and on long-form gameplay – Pavel’s ability to plan and react is almost second to none. He received a recent blow after being knocked out by newcomer Julian ‘DocPwn’ Bachand but the world number one will soon be back, and hungry for a victory.
Dota 2 – International
Inarguably THE premier eSport competition, with a current prize purse of $15 million grown from the $1.5 million seed fund from parent company Valve. This purse is not only a reflection of the game’s money-spinning potential but its growth in popularity, with the additional $13.5 million provided by the games’ fans purchasing a ‘battle pass’ that allows players of the game access to unique missions and a wealth of content for in-game characters.
With the qualifiers starting on the 22nd of June, any online site that’s worth its salt will be offering coverage on the event, including Bet365, Pinnacle and Betnow.
CS:GO EU Minor Championships
Held in Krakow, these championships may not hold the glamour or prestige of larger events such as The International, but the European Championships’ offer of a $50,000 prize-pool and the bragging rights that go with it are more than enough to attract the best eight qualifying teams throughout the region.
Starting on the 15th of June in Bucharest, the event promises to be closely found and brutal to watch – with CS:GO’s ‘one life per round’ play forcing eliminated players to watch the game unfold in shame if they are taken out early. If you’re looking to get in on the action, this event is also covered by Paddy Power and Bet 365 – with PP offering particularly good odds of 6/1 on Gambit Gaming with their No.1 EU ranking.
Tips & Advice
Before you step into the games, there are a few things to bear in mind…
Casters Don’t Know Everything: Always remember that even though eSports is a young industry to punt on, when it comes to cultivating knowledge, there is a wealth of information to sift through. Many games have been in circulation for an extremely long length of time, which allows pundits to develop a genuine in-depth understanding of the game. However, younger games will rarely have a fully balanced ‘meta’ (the rules that govern the game) and any advice beforehand is worth taking with a pinch of salt or at least cross-referencing between several different sources.
Work Your Way Up: Considering the high barrier to entry – even for individuals that are familiar with emarkets – it’s often hard work finding an entry level game to get in the market to build your awareness before moving on to the harder stuff. Nintendo has had a resurgence in this field, introducing tournament-ready games like ‘Splatoon 2’, ‘Arms’ and a system port called ‘Rocket League’. Whether these truly have the ‘grit’ to be market leaders remains to be seen. But, with simplicity and depth at their core with all things, it’ll be a great entry to the market…and a way to help while-away the hours on your morning commute.
Sit Yourself Down: If you’re truly serious about making money off eSports – and there is money to be had – you have many unique advantages. Due to all games being played digitally and sponsors’ willingness to publicise their teams, all major games and tournaments will be available for you to save and review on YouTube, Twitch, or digital services. This will let you watch and review the performance of key teams and help cultivate an understanding of state of the overall ‘meta’ for the game. Key plays and events can be reviewed, letting you make an informed punt when you’re ready to bet again.